Softball team defies COVID delay, vies for league lead
Spring sports have returned, so softball players face a mingling of the excitement of playing again with the uneasy apprehension that accompanies not having played for so long. The first game is the most grueling; it determines the initial strength of the team, the intensity that is brought to every play, and the amount of communication between players, among other aspects of the game. But it is not just the first game that affects the season ahead; the bus ride dramatically affects the season and the camaraderie between teammates.
With six new freshmen on the team, few of the girls had played together as a team. Not to mention the fact that it has been approximately a year since the veteran players’ last season. Freshman pitcher Claren Wong confesses, “It was just nerve-wracking ‘cause it was our first game for high school and also it's been such a long time since we’ve actually played and been on the field.” This feeling is definitely understandable, but it seems none of the players seemed to have any expectations for the outcome of the game. Solo senior and first baseman Kailey Clymo says, “I didn't really have any expectations going into our first game. We are a young team so it was like a trial run to see if we were any good.” Sophomore third baseman Abby Yamashita adds, “I just hoped that we would come together as a team and just play hard — that's all I really wanted.” Especially since practice time was limited, it was more about the effort put in by the team rather than the final score of the game.
The bus ride is filled with all the emotions that the players are feeling going into the game. The bus ride to the game was boisterous and loud, with the upperclassmen playing music in the back of the bus. Clymo said, “I was a little nervous and we had a super long ride but it was fun to listen to music and bond with the team.” Although there was a divide between returnees and new players on the bus, the ride was still a flurry of excitement for all members of the team. When asked about the ride, Wong comments, “It was exciting. During the ride it was very noisy and somewhat chaotic. But very fun.”
Once the game begins, all the pregame feelings turn into background noise. Veteran player Yamashita observed, “It just felt like home ... it felt like I had never left.” In Soledad it is a bit more intense than other locations due to the vigorous winds. A fly ball would pause in the air, or during warm-ups a stray visor would cartwheel across the grass. As Clymo described it, “It was blowing us all over the place and made warm-ups a mess. I was down in spirits about how messy we looked in warm-ups and was worried for the game.” During the game the wind didn’t seem to affect the team at all. Wong comments, “I feel like it actually helped my pitching, as odd as that sounds.”
Regardless of the wind, the Stevenson team played a great game. Wong struck out 11 batters and Junior Gabby Perez hit a grand slam. The game ended with a 20-9 win against Soledad. Of course, the players were ecstatic about their performance. The bus ride back would be even more exciting than before, and the addition of a pit stop for food added to the cheerful mood. Yamashita declares, “That was an all-time high. We all knew we were going to Taco Bell so that made it even better.” Clymo adds on, “It was nice we were all in high spirits and I was super excited for the win and Taco Bell. Felt like a great relief off our shoulders to have such a strong first game.”
That first win gave the team faith in themselves for the remainder of the season. Not only did it showcase the strength of each individual player, but their ability to work together to grab the win. They didn’t just work together by physically playing, but also by picking each other up when one made a mistake. As Yamashita put it, “I was just so thankful to have a team that was going to have my back no matter what.” After the game, Clymo evaluated the team’s debut: “It gave me a lot more confidence in myself and the team in our skill level and mental toughness. That game was windy, cold, and long and Soledad didn't let up. We had to stay in it and focus for 3 hours and we did.”